Throughout his career in the fitness business, Ed Shelby, 80, founder and owner of Tan & Tone America, managed to distance himself from International Fitness Centers, an Oklahoma City-based chain that went bankrupt in 1987.
International Fitness' story had a similar ending to Tan & Tone's, with hundreds of customers fuming over unused membership fees. Twelve metro-area Tan & Tone locations closed abruptly Monday and nearly 200 complaints have been filed with the state Attorney General's Office over fees debited from members' bank accounts and not refunded. Not only does the owner owe customers, he owes the state Tax Commission more than $215,000, a commission spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Efforts to reach Shelby for comment have been unsuccessful.
When International Fitness went under, it left hundreds of former members with worthless lifetime or long-term memberships. As a result, the Legislature passed the Oklahoma Health Spa Act, which prohibits the sale of contracts longer than 36 months. However, the law didn't apply to Tan & Tone America because it exempts facilities that operate “solely for aerobics or toning.”
In a 2002 interview with The Oklahoman, Shelby said he worked for President's First Lady Spas, the first publicly owned fitness center company, in 1969. International Fitness Centers began in 1973, when William J. McDonald bought four President's First Lady Spas and remodeled them.
According to The Oklahoman Archives, Shelby was an executive and former director of United Spas Inc., parent company to International Fitness Centers. A subtle name change, from Edward to Ed, may have helped Shelby distance himself from the defunct company.
In a statement posted Monday on the Tan & Tone website, the owners, who don't list their names, said they exhausted “every possible financial resource to save the company,” including their personal life insurance and retirement funds.